Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
BAIRN, Bearn, n. and v. [bern, bɛrn]
(1) A child, male or female; offspring of any age. Gen.Sc.
Sc. 1909 Green's Encycl. Law Scot. 568:
In the law of succession, the Scotch word “bairns” means the children or issue of a person. Sh. 1888 Edmonston and Saxby Home of a Naturalist 285:
When he cam to my side I pointed to oor bairn and I said, “She's the only thing o' the kind that we hae.” n.Sc. 1743–1744 D. Cameron of Lochiel in Gael. Socy. of Inv., Unpublished Letters of Simon 12th Lord Lovat (1886) 368:
I beg leave to assure you and her, and all the lovely Bearns, of my most humble duty and affectionate respects. Abd.(D) 1915 H. Beaton At the Back o' Benachie 95:
Cricky, 'oman, bit they are mair sharp nor the very minister's bairns, an' them jist the scaddins o' the streets! Edb. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 28:
I didna ken whaur I was, or what I was daein, nae mair nor a soukin bairn.
(2) Denoting the time of childhood; in childhood.
Rxb. 1921 Hawick Express (27 May) 3/7:
Here leeved Betty Whutson, bairn an' wuman.
(3) Having the nature of a child.
Sc. 1832 A. Henderson Sc. Proverbs 1:
Auld men are twice bairns.
(4) A peculiar extension of this word is used by fishermen in Orkney to mean the smaller of the two hills in taking their directions [Meeths] at sea. (See Marw.)
We'll bring yin [yon] bairn in a line wi' the Brough o' Birsay.
(5) A term of contempt.
Jock's naething bit a bairn, a big bullyin' breet. Gall. 1898 A.W. in E.D.D.:
Bairn, is used sometimes in a pitying or semi-contemptuous sense, of a weak-minded or childish person.
2. v. To render pregnant.
J. M. was bairning S. T. Ayr. 1827 Burns ed. Merry Muses 14:
I've bairn'd the servants, gilpies both Forbye your titty Leah. Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B. 47:
Bairn, to get (a woman) with child.
3. Combs.: (1) Bairn-clouts, a baby's clothes.
Kcb. 1895 S. R. Crockett Men of the Moss-Hags iv.:
An' ye can help Jean to sew her bairn-clouts.
(2) Bairn-folk, children.
Knr. 1891 “H. Haliburton” Ochil Idylls 57:
A lang array o' bairn-folk Thrangin' up was seen.
(3) Bairn's-bairn, a grandchild.
Gweed luck ta ye, ma lassie, an' may ye dandle yir bairn's bairns on yir knee. Hdg. 1932 (per Edb.1):
Wee Annie is Elspeth's bairn's bairn.
(4) Bairnswoman, a child's maid or nurse.
Ayr. 1823 Galt Entail ii.:
Eh! Megsty, gudeman, if I dinna think yon's auld Kittlestonheugh's crookit bairnswoman.
4. Phrases: (1) Bairn nor birth. (See quot.)
Sc. 1879 Jam.5:
“She has neither bairn nor birth to mind,” denoting that a young woman is totally free of the cares of a young family.
(2) Bairns o' Falkirk, inhabitants of Falkirk.
Slg. 1879 R. Gillespie Roundabout Falkirk 35:
The town coat of arms which had the well-known motto “Better meddle wi' the deil than the bairns o' Falkirk,” indicates a phase of temperament which will be better left unexplained.
(3) John Tamson's bairns, of one stock or family, friends.
Lnk. 1827 W. Motherwell Minstrelsy, App. x.:
In the West Country . . . when a company are sitting together, sociably, and a neighbour drops in, it is usual to welcome him thus: — “Come awa, we're a' John Tamson's bairns.”
(4) One man's bairn(e)s, meaning as in (3).
Sc. 1706 First Earl of Cromartie in Earls of Cromartie (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 4:
Then, whate're parties or persons doe manage and cary it [the Union] on, they have my best wishes . . . and then I hope that wee shall be all one man's bairnes.
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"Bairn n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 May 2021 <https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/bairn>
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